Stone as a unit of Measurement

‘Stone’ is a large unit of measurement used sporadically but still prevalent enough to make you wonder what it is. It has its origins in the imperial systems of Europe, especially Britain, in the 15th century.

What is a Stone?

The Britannica Encyclopaedia defines stone as:

Stone, British unit of weight for dry products generally equivalent to 14 pounds avoirdupois (6.35 kg), though it varied from 4 to 32 pounds (1.814 to 14.515 kg) for various items over time.”

Whereas, Wikipedia defines it as under:

“The stone is a unit for measuring mass in the Imperial system. It is equal to fourteen pounds. 160 stone make up a long ton. In the metric system, 1 stone = 6.35029318 kilograms.”

Stone is thus a unit like the pound or kilogram and is used for measuring mass. The standard of stone accepted today is that one stone is equivalent to 14 pounds. It is abbreviated as st.

History of Stone

‘Stone’ has been in use since the ancient roman times. During those days, there was no universal standard and various different sizes of stones, depending upon the object being measured and the place where measured, were used.

Stones were used to weigh animals, meat, food products, clothes and many other items. I was during those times one of the most common and prevalent system of measure across trading communities.

The stone was standardised in 1825 by Edward II because of the necessity that arose for a standard weight measure for exporting wool from Britain to Florence. The stone was fixed at 14 pound wool stone to be used for trade of wool and other products.

Stone is one of the unique systems of measurement. It was widely used in Britain but was never adopted in the United States. However, even Britain has outlawed the usage of Stone in 1985.

Officially, the Stone is not a recognised unit of measurement in any of the nations around the world. The most commonly used unit of measurement today is either the pound or metric kilogram and its ancillaries.

Modern Day Usage

Stone has however continued to be used by people around the globe. The stone as a unit of measurement has become entrenched in some areas like boxing, horse racing, body weight etc. Let’s take few examples to see the usage of stone.

  1. Both the World Boxing Association and the World Boxing Council define Super Light Weight to be a person weighing a maximum of 10 stones or 140 pounds. Other weight categories are also defined similarly.
  2. The horse racing in Britain continue to use stone as a measure to describe the allotted weights of jockeys on race cards instead of other commonly used metric measurements. The weight described on the race cards are in the format11-07 which implies that the horse has to carry the weight of 11 stones and 7 pounds.
  3. Humans still continue to express body weight in stone and pounds.

Stone thus not a standard unit of weight has gained popular usage and is still used. However, its use is declining with time. Lots of places where the stone was used earlier have started replacing it with either pounds or the metric unit kilogram.

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